The new offices are smaller, cheaper to run but I think also more pleasant working environment for the dedicated council staff and hopefully also a better experience for residents who visit the civic.
Possibly the first public meeting in them will be Older People's Working Group at 2pm on 19th December – come for the carols, stay for the company!
From: “Reading Borough Council” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 9 Dec 2014 09:49
Subject: Relocated Civic Offices to Open Next Week
Relocated Civic Offices to Open Next Week
Reading Borough Council Press Release
RESIDENTS are being reminded that as of Monday December 15, Reading Borough Council’s relocated Civic Offices will be open in Bridge Street. The old Civic Centre will be closed to the public from that date.
The relocated Civic Offices are a short walk away in Bridge Street, opposite the back of House of Fraser. The new address is Civic Offices, Bridge Street, Reading, RG1 2LU. All existing telephone numbers will be transferred across.
Friday December 12th is the final day the old Civic Centre will be open to the public. Reception will close at 3.30pm, as well as the Call Centre. The Civic Centre will then be shut down in preparation for demolition and the wider regeneration of the area.
Reading Borough Council is moving offices because it cannot continue to operate from the Civic Centre. The building is at the end of its design life and large amounts of asbestos make it extremely difficult and expensive to maintain. Recent water leaks have seen parts of the building evacuated and closed off to staff, and part of an inside ceiling at the Civic is held up by scaffolding. There have also been instances of large window panels cracking, putting staff and the public at risk.
The estimated cost of refurbishing the current Civic Centre and bringing it up to an acceptable standard, is around four times higher than the cost of refurbishing the Bridge Street offices.
The Bridge Street Civic Offices are not a new build – they were existing offices. A level of refurbishment was necessary, including creating a public reception area and meeting rooms. While the current Civic Centre is set across 15 floors, the Bridge Street offices have three floors and occupies 45% less office space than currently used by the Council at both the Civic Centre and Fountain House. The smaller offices reflect that the Council has cut its workforce by more than 600 posts since 2010.
The relocated Civic Offices are also predicted to use around 75% less energy than the current Civic Centre building. This will again save the Council tax payer money.
Reading Borough Council Leader Jo Lovelock said:
“The reasons behind the Council having to move offices are well established. The fabric of this building is failing, with large amounts of asbestos inside making it difficult and expensive to maintain. We have had instances of water leaks closing off parts of the building, cracked windows, and internal ceilings held up by scaffolding. It also costs a great deal of money to heat and cool. The Council is having to spend a great deal of money just to maintain this building, and that is something that cannot continue.
“The fact it is four times more expensive to stay in this building than to move is a good indication of the scale of work which would be necessary if we’d stayed. At a time of significant cuts in Government funding and increased demands on services, we would much rather be spending that money providing services to residents.
“The all-party Civic Board had two priorities when identifying a location – to achieve the best possible value for money and to continue to deliver high quality services to local residents. After a thorough selection process, the Bridge Street offices ticked both those boxes. They will be significantly cheaper to run – which saves the Council tax payer money – they are nearly half the size of our current town centre offices, and will be around 75% more energy efficient.
“The site the Civic Centre sits on will form part of a major regeneration of what is an important part of the Town Centre and the Council last year appointed Kier as its regeneration partner to deliver that.
“When the Council moves, the Civic Centre will be shut down and demolished. That process in itself will take a considerable amount of time as the building needs to be stripped of all asbestos inside, before demolition of the exterior begins. The Hexagon will remain open throughout that process and we will be ensuring the theatre is well signposted throughout.”
Notes for Editors:
Reading Borough Council Civic Offices Move
Questions and Answers
Why is Reading Borough Council moving offices?
The Council cannot continue to operate from the Civic Centre. It has reached the end of its design life. The large amount of asbestos contained within the building means the Civic Centre is increasingly difficult and expensive to maintain. It costs a lot of money in energy bills to heat and cool and public access is difficult, particularly for people with disabilities. Overall it is much cheaper for the Council to move offices than to stay in the Civic Centre.
Would it not have been cheaper to stay and refurbish the Civic Centre?
No. The estimated cost of refurbishing the current Civic Centre and bringing it up to an acceptable standard is four times higher than the cost of refurbishing the Bridge Street offices. A large part of that is the prohibitive cost of dealing with asbestos in the Civic Centre. There are also legionella risks associated with the cooling system and a significant structural deterioration of the building. The Civic Centre also lacks good design in terms of accessibility and sustainability and neither of these things could be improved to any great extent if we spent a great deal of money on refurbishment. In terms of providing value for money for the Council Tax payer, moving offices is by far the best and cheapest option. At a time of significant cuts in Government funding and increased demands on services, we would much rather be spending this money providing vital services to residents.
Is the Civic Centre dangerous?
The asbestos is currently carefully managed by council staff and contractors and is not currently a health-risk. All day to day maintenance of the building is extremely expensive however. Examples include water leaks which have seen significant areas of the building evacuated and closed to staff for several weeks, while specialist contractors carried out repairs. There have also been instances of large window panels cracking, putting staff and the public at risk. These problems continue to present serious health and safety risks to the Council and all users of the building. In order for the Council to refurbish the old Civic Centre and put in new heating systems, it would need to strip out the asbestos contained in the building, which is one of the reasons refurbishment would be so costly.
Are the relocated offices in Bridge Street new?
No, this is not a new build. The building was previously used as offices, but a level of refurbishment was necessary. This included the obvious need to create a public reception area and meeting rooms.
Why did you pick the offices in Bridge Street?
The Council had two key priorities when identifying a location. They were: achieve the best possible value for money for council taxpayers in Reading; and continue to deliver high quality services to local residents. The process began in January 2011 when the all-party Civic Board invited bids. More than 30 initial submissions were received for possible relocation sites. After careful consideration, the Bridge Street offices (formerly Plaza West) was selected by the all-party Civic Board as the option which best met both these priorities – it was the best value for money and best meets the Council’s day to day operational needs.
How big are the Bridge Street Offices?
While the Civic Centre is set across 15 floors, the Bridge Street offices have three floors. It occupies 45% less office space than currently used by the Council at the Civic Centre and Fountain House, where the Council also leases office space. This means it will be significantly cheaper to run, including cutting down on energy bills. The Council has also cut its workforce by more than 600 posts since 2010 as a result of cuts in Government funding. That means we no longer need the amount of office space we used to.
What refurbishment work has taken place?
Because the Bridge St building was existing office space, it required far less refurbishment than some of the other options that were considered. It is also particularly important that all of the public facing services can be located on the ground floor, due to its large footprint. A public reception area and meeting rooms have been created, the front entrance of the building has been widened for public use and, where possible, we have also reused some of the existing office space and structures that were already in place. The refurbishment has also involved putting the necessary IT equipment into place which supports the Council in delivering services.
How energy efficient is the building?
The relocated Civic Offices is predicted to use around 75% less energy than the current Civic Centre building. Not only is it a more modern building, which is easier to heat and cool, it includes a host of energy saving measures such as a large array of solar panels on the roof, new energy efficient boilers, and low energy LED lighting throughout, which operates on sensors to ensure lights only come on when needed. The solar panels will generate electricity for use in the building, whilst the other technologies will dramatically reduce the consumption of electricity and gas in the building. A comprehensive monitoring system will enable accurate control of energy consumption in the building. Overall, this means the Bridge Street Offices will be significantly better for the environment and significantly cheaper to run, which saves the Council tax payer money.
When are you moving?
The move will take place in phases, starting in mid–November with services like the Council’s IT and traffic control teams moving first, as well as Town centre CCTV facilities. Other services will then follow over the course of the next month. The Council’s Reception and Calls Centre will be the last to move. The Civic Centre will fully remain open to the public until Friday December 12th. The relocated Civic Offices in Bridge Street will then be open to the public from the following Monday, December 15th.
How will you be telling people?
Leaflets and posters will be handed out and on display at the Civic Centre over the course of the next few weeks. We will also be looking to advertise the move around the current Civic Centre site, so that people know well in advance. ‘We are Moving’ messages will be added to existing Council correspondence throughout November and December. We will also be looking to spread the word through the Council’s usual communications channels, including local media and social media.
What happens to the Hexagon Theatre?
The Hexagon remains fully open for business throughout the process, including when the Council has moved out of the Civic Centre.
What will happen to the Civic Centre after you move out?
The Civic Centre will be closed from Monday December 15th. Hoardings around the building will be erected and it will be demolished. That will be a lengthy process because of the amount of asbestos contained inside the building. This needs to be removed floor by floor, securely and safely by specialist asbestos contractors pre-demolition. That means there will be a period when the public may not necessarily see works taking place from outside the building. That is because all the preparation work for demolition is taking place inside the Civic Centre.
What happens to the site after it is demolished?
The Civic Centre site will form part of a major regeneration of the wider Civic Area and the Council last year appointed Kier as its regeneration partner. The Council’s move will provide the catalyst for the redevelopment of the town centre site. This could include a mix of residential, commercial, retail, leisure and community facilities, together with open space and a location for a modern market. This is an important part of the Town Centre and the regeneration needs to integrate the Hexagon, retail market and enhance nearby conservation areas and listed buildings, including St Mary’s Church.
Reading Borough Council Press Releases can be found online at http://www.reading.gov.uk/news/pressreleases/
Media Contact: Oscar Mortali
Tel: 0118 937 2301